It’s never too late to try something new, and I thought this would be a good time to experiment with my end-of-season reviews. Usually, I bundle up all of the final thoughts into one or two gigantic posts. This means that the posts include shows that finished two or even three weeks apart in the season. Because of that, and the ridiculous length of some of the season wraps, I thought I’d try a weekly approach with, at most, three or four titles. Please let me know what you think of this format, along with your thoughts on the shows discussed in my posts!
“To tell you the truth, I want to stay here forever. I’m sure that’s impossible, but I don’t want to go anywhere. I love this place. I want to stay here forever” (Natsume, “Nishimura and Kitamoto”).
“I found myself smiling at others, and seeing them smile in return….Reiko-san…did you ever really get to exchange smiles with someone? With the people you cared about?” (“What Matters”).
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that true friends are difficult to find–you can spend your whole life never making more than a handful even if you’re lucky. Natsume Yuujinchou frequently circles on the topic of friendship, touching on humans and youkai alike. While the previous series in the franchise loosely hold their own themes, season six digs deeper into the nature of Natsume Takashi’s relationships with his human friends and family, as well as the spirits who surround him. Natsume has always walked a shaky line between the two worlds, learning stories of Reiko’s past and creating new ones of his own every day, though this may be the first time where we see through the eyes of his school friends. Their version of events provides further substance to an already fleshed-out world. Surrounded by friends and family like he is, Natsume finally has a home he can call his own and, perhaps, a purpose to pursue.
Starting up a new high school club is familiar territory for anime, with many shows demonstrating the difficulties of gathering members and establishing a routine. Some represent Japanese classic arts, such as karuta (art and game) in Chihayafuru and yosakoi in Hanayamata. Games like go and shogi are mainstays with Hikaru no Go, Shion no Ou, and 3-gatsu no Lion. Even rakugo has found coverage in Joshiraku and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Now we have Kabukibu!, a light novel adaptation about a high school kabuki club.
Two expectations rose to the forefront when I considered watching the show: first, a boys-only group aimed at a female audience and, second, a demonstration of kabuki that leaned either too far away or too close to the art. Thankfully, the show has proven neither of these views, instead rising far above in approach and display to fully capture my attention.
There was no way I could have predicted at the start of the season that Seikaisuru Kado would be impressing me the way it has in story, execution, and, yes, even visuals. The anime-original has inspired a manga adaptation, as well as a spin-off manga. If you enjoy science fiction with alien encounters, national and international politics, and theories of world peace, then Kado: The Right Answer may be just the show for you. You don’t even have to be a science fiction fan or anime fan to appreciate the series–the ideas and emotions presented are, quite literally, universal.
Tales of Zestiria the X is finally finished after a five-week delay on the last episode, “The Legend.” The series was split into two parts with a season break in between. You can read my thoughts on the first part here, where my overall opinion of the beginning was one of dissatisfaction; the work felt disjointed in plot and flow. I still enjoyed the world and its idea of humans, seraphim, and Malevolence, but wish certain areas were expanded upon, cut, or rearranged. The second season of Zestiria the X improved upon the weaknesses of the first and I finally felt invested in the actions of Sorey, Alisha, and Rose.
Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho, more easily referred to as Zero no Syo, takes place in a world where magic exists but is largely condemned as the bearer of misfortune. Humans blame witches for everything from plagues to natural disasters, and hold an almost equal disdain for beastfallen, humans born with an animal appearance like a wolf and tiger. Our story begins with one such beastfallen who stumbles across a witch unlike most other witches he has encountered.
When I first picked up Zero no Syo, I expected it to be much like any other generic fantasy show, familiar and forgettable. The average character designs and overall art style give no hint to the show’s immersive story. “Zero” and “Mercenary” are a surprisingly good combination of skepticism and wit, and I wish we had a longer amount of time than the slotted twelve episodes to explore their relationship.
A thread of miscommunication runs through the series–a lack of understanding between humans and witches, witches and beastfallen, beastfallen and humans. As is natural, they all prioritize their own interests before those of others, and create their own conceptions of the truth. These expectations appear fulfilled when events occur justifying their own ideas.
When I first heard that Seattle’s Cinerama would be holding an Anime Movie Festival, I knew immediately that I wanted to go. Not only were there films included in the line-up that I had never seen, but I had also never visited the acclaimed theater. Cinerama is a single-screen venue boasting the “most epic movie experience.” Having first opened in 1963 after the World’s Fair’s appearance in the city it was one of the hottest locations until its decline in popularity in the mid 80s and 90s. Thanks to the purchase and renovation of philanthropist Paul Allen, the theater was reborn in 1999 with advanced screen and sound technology. The theater was again upgraded more recently in 2014.
Cinerama hosts many types of events, including 70mm festivals, Science Fiction, and more. This year’s Anime Film Festival is the first of its kind, and I hope to see more of it in the coming years. Perhaps they may even expand to include multi-episode original video animation series. The movies I viewed were:
While the last is actually my favorite Ghibli film and one I’ve seen countless times, I still could not resist the chance to see it on the big screen for the first time. Below are my brief thoughts on the movies and my viewing experience at Seattle Cinerama.
“If you have a choice, why not try something you’ve never had before?”
-Takeshi Shizuko, “Anniversary Oden,” Samurai Gourmet
Having just finished another J-drama food series, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix rightly suggested I try Samurai Gourmet, a television series with a lighter spirit and distinct sense of humor. In addition to the food and individual stories, I was drawn to the series by its main actor, Naoto Takenaka, who I loved in the live action music series, Nodame Cantabile.
Gourmet Samurai is an episodic series spanning 12, 25-minute episodes. Played by Takenaka, Takeshi Kasumi is a retired salaryman unsure of how to fill his now free days. Thanks to the suggestion of his wife, Kasumi steps out in search of a hobby and stumbles across the joy of dining out. His food discoveries are always accompanied by a hallucination (or is it?) of a wandering samurai. This samurai, played by the very handsome Tamayama Tetsuji, helps Kasumi overcome his misgivings, like drinking in the middle of the day, eating properly in a formal setting, and even dealing with grouchy chefs. The more Kasumi learns from the samurai, the more he is able to appreciate his new found hobby.